Flyers Faithful asked Travis Hughes from SB Nation and Broad Street Hockey, Matt P. From The 700 Level, Mark Trible from The Checking Line and our very own Pavialax five questions about the playoffs. We are very grateful that they took the time to share their opinions and predictions with us. Each day of this week, we will run the answers to one of those questions. Today’s question is:
We’ve heard already who should be the starter in the playoffs. Who shouldn’t be the starter and why?
Travis Hughes: Interesting twist. I think Brian Boucher should ride the pine to start the playoffs for one reason only: if one goalie is to falter in the playoffs, the weight is going to be thrust completely on the other guy, and should Boosh falter and the pressure falls on Bob, are we sure he can handle it? We know what Boosh can do in the postseason, and we also know that the two goalies have both been capable this season, so it’s not a matter of which goalie is better or anything.
Both goalies can have success if they’re the starter, but in the chance that one goalie falters in the playoffs, I’m much more comfortable with Boosh stepping in to replace Bob than Bob stepping in to replace Boosh.
Matt P: I don’t really think there’s a firm answer to either question, but I’m in the camp that it really may not matter. For most of the season, both Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky have shown that they are good enough goaltenders that the team in front of them can beat any team in the league. Even if they falter, they don’t let a bad outing become a bad week. Perhaps that’s due to Peter Laviolette’s frequent use of both guys throughout the entire season. I’m assuming based on what we’re seeing down the stretch that we’ll see Bob start the playoffs. What happens from there is anyone’s guess, but Boosh is plenty capable of stepping in and taking the reins, as he showed last postseason before getting hurt.
As far as who shouldn’t be in consideration, and likely isn’t, Michael Leighton. I only bring it up because for some reason there’s a vocal minority of fans who want to see him brought in for the playoff run. Barring injury to either of the club’s starters throughout the season, Leighton won’t see time in the playoffs. But, if something were to happen to Bob or Boosh, Leighton is getting plenty of work with the Phantoms and should be ready to go as the backup. After last season, we know how quickly injuries can change the goalie situation.
Mark Trible: In all honesty, either goaltender could start in the playoffs and I’m not sure it would matter. If I had to choose between Bobrovsky and Boucher I would probably go with the latter. The main reason being that Boucher has been through the playoffs before. That’s not to say that Bobrovsky wouldn’t succeed, but I’d rather have the intangible of being in a similar situation. Also, it’s been well chronicled that the team is more comfortable with Boucher’s puck handling than Bobrovsky’s. In the playoffs, one misplay can cost your team a game, and the likelihood of that happening with Boucher is much lower.
For the Flyers, they can ride either goalie as long as their defense is capable. At the beginning of the season, the idea was to protect the goalies as well as possible with strong defense in front of the net and the team would be able to get by in the playoffs. If the Flyers put more importance on consistency, Boucher is the option. Lately the defense has been shaky, so the gamble of choosing Bobrovsky may pay bigger dividends with his ability to ‘steal’ a goal or two from the opposition.
Pavialax: The only goalie that I can for sure, 100% say should not start (or play, for that matter – barring injury) in the playoffs is Michael Leighton. Brian Boucher has been a great mentor and example for Sergei Bobrovsky in his rookie season, language barriers aside. I’ve been hearing murmurs of people saying that the flyers should call up Leighton, who is, as expected, posting very good numbers in the AHL. However calling up Leighton is still a gamble and could break whatever confidence each of Boucher and Bobrovsky have, not to mention that Leighton is no more a proven playoff goaltender than Boucher.
There are 8 games left of the regular season, including the Bruins game on Sunday and I think Bobrovsky will have a chance to string together some decent games, with Boucher filling in here and there. I think Laviolette will use both goalies in the playoffs, depending on who the flyers are matched up against in each round.